Oklahoma basketball: Sooners facing bear of a task at No. 2 Baylor

WACO, TX - FEBRUARY 21: Christian James
WACO, TX - FEBRUARY 21: Christian James /

For the second time in less than a week Oklahoma basketball will go up against a top-10 team. On Monday, the Sooners will be at No. 2 Baylor, a team that beat then-No. 3 Kansas by a dozen points on the road.

Lest I remind everyone that Kansas beat the Sooners by the same amount at Oklahoma last Tuesday.

Now that we’ve defined the degree of difficulty Oklahoma will face against a Baylor team that is good enough to win the national championship, here is what the Sooners must do to stay in the game with the Bears, who, by the way, have won 14 straight games and are 8-0 at home this season.

Baylor makes its living offensively in the paint and on the three-point line, firing at a Big 12 second-best 36-percent clip. The Bears also rebound well, especially on the offensive glass, which has been a problem for the Sooners all season.

Sophomore Jared Butler leads the Bears in scoring, with an average of 16.9 points a game. He is a player you have to be able to find on the floor at all times. If you don’t, he will hurt you, shooting 44 percent from the field and 40 percent from long range.

Butler isn’t the only Baylor Bear, though, who can hurt you on offense, and that is one of the reasons they were able to take down Kansas on the Jayhawks’ home floor and are ranked No. 2 in the nation. He is one of four Baylor starters averaging at least 10 points a game.

What really makes Baylor the complete team that it is, however, is a stifling defense. The Bears are holding opponents under 60 points a game, which leads the Big 12 and ranks sixth in the country. The reason they are able to keep teams under 60 points is because they apply defensive pressure and contest every shot. Consequently, teams that are inconsistent on the offensive end struggle against the Baylor defense,

Oklahoma is going to need a big game from its Big Three — Kristian Doolittle, Austin Reaves and Brady Manek — to have a reasonable chance in this game. Short of that, another member of the Sooner supporting cast is going to have to have a career game.

Doolittle is averaging 16 points a game over his last five games, and Manek had a career-high 31 in OU’s win over TCU on Saturday and averages 15.4 for the season.

Reaves, arguably Oklahoma’s best three-point shooter, has struggled offensively in recent games. He has reached his 15.1 scoring average only once in his last seven games and, more importantly, has made just one of his last 16 three-point tries.

Oklahoma leads the all-time series with Baylor 45-17, but is just 3-7 in its last 10 trips to Waco. OU’s last win at Baylor was in 2016, when National Player of the Year Buddy Hield and the Sooners prevailed 82-72.

Baylor swept OU last season, beating the Sooners by 30 in Norman, 77-47, and by six, 59-53 in Waco.

Oklahoma is 0-1 this season against a team ranked in the Associated Press Top 25. The last time the Sooners beat a team ranked No. 2 or higher was in 2002, when they defeated No. 1 Kansas in the Big 12 Postseason Tournament.

Next perhaps to Kansas’ Allen Field House (on Feb. 15), the road game at Baylor will be Oklahoma’s biggest test of the season. The Sooners will need to play a near perfect game to pull off the upset. And even that might not be good enough.

Hate to do it, Sooner fans, but the numbers don’t lie.

Baylor 74, Oklahoma 58